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Clutch at Marquee Theatre with Guests

October 15 @ 6:30 pm - 11:30 pm

With the release of their highly anticipated 12th studio album, the gloriously titled “Book of Bad Decisions”, it would be easy to suggest that legendary Maryland rockers Clutch have made their finest record to date. This may even be true. You see, the thing about Clutch is that ever since their 1993 debut Transnational Speedway League they’ve been in the business of writing stone cold classics, and even the most rabid fan would have trouble picking just one. “Book of Bad Decisions” won’t make that task any easier. Rest assured, it’s another classic.

Recorded over three weeks at Sputnik Studios in Nashville, “Book of Bad Decisions” was produced by four-time Grammy winner Vance Powell (Seasick Steve, The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, etc.), a man who apparently knows that a one degree angle change in microphones makes a difference to how an instrument sounds. Interestingly, his name first came to the band’s attention via country star Chris Stapleton.

“It started with my brother-in-law, who’s a huge Chris Stapleton fan,” says drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. “He and I would listen to The Traveller quite a bit, and one thing that stood out was that it didn’t sound like any other country record that I’d heard. Shortly after that I was on Spotify, and a song by The Dead Weather came up. It just blew me away and I could tell that whoever produced that record was doing things a different way. I looked it up and there was Vance Powell’s name again, so something was telling us that this is a guy we should reach out to.”

“Even though Chris Stapleton does music that’s not too much like our own, the sonics of the record are pretty great,” says frontman Neil Fallon. “He has a very different approach to recording; he comes from the school of live recording and engineering, and the songs, on tape, are not gonna sound that much different from what we do live.”

No stranger to the road, Powell spent three days on tour with the band in order to get a feel for what they do best, watching first from the front of house and then from the stage, checking out the live sound and how Clutch connect with their audience.

“I never go into a record having an idea of how it’s gonna sound,” he says. “But after hearing them live, I had an idea of how they could sound. I’m a big live recording fan, so I like when bands play together and I didn’t wanna get into that manufacturing a record concept. I wanted it to be real organic.”

Indeed, ‘organic’ is a word that comes up a lot when talking to Clutch about the new record, Powell taking great care to get guitar tones right and making sure that each song had its own identity.

“Vance is all about vintage guitar sounds,” says guitarist Tim Sult. “I probably had more amplifier options than on any other album we’ve done. It was like going back to a music store in 1960! This was the first time I’ve ever recorded with amps from the ’50s and I ended up buying a couple of ’50s amps while we were in Nashville.”

“I felt really good about the gear that I was bringing into the studio,” concurs bassist Dan Maines, “but Vance had this 1974 Ampeg and I’m so glad that he recommended that. As soon as we plugged it in, it sounded like Sabbath! We ended up using it alongside one of my amps, and I loved it so much that once we were done recording I scoured the ads for another one. What I really like is that each song has a different tone to it, and I think that’s Vance Powell’s style.”

With each band member contributing riffs to the album – including Jean-Paul who has added mandolin to his repertoire – there was no shortage of material, each song road-tested long before it reached the studio. Hell, with 15 songs, “Book of Bad Decisions” could easily pass as a double album! Always wary of repeating themselves and retreading old ground, there is even – for the first time on a Clutchalbum – a horn section that swings like James Brown’s pants!

“The third night I was watching the band,” says Vance, “they did this song that at that time was called Talkbox, which is now In Walks Barbarella. While Neil was singing, I was thinking to myself, “wow, there’s a horn line here!” And while he was singing, I was humming it to myself. I brought it up to them, tenuously, and they were like, “okay, let’s do it!” This is as Parliament, Funkadelic as it gets, maybe even a James Brown vibe!”

One thing, however, that is entirely as expected, is that as arguably the greatest rock lyricist of modern times, Fallon, as always, has provided some interesting subject matter, everything from poets to presidents and recipes to rock ‘n’ roll. You may have to Google some of it, because Fallon is nothing if not a clever bugger, and likes to keep his audience on their toes.

“Most of the time I have no idea what he’s talking about,” laughs Jean-Paul, “but the lyrics completely inform how I’m going to play that tune. Whether or not I understand exactly what Neil is singing about is not important. I listen to the way Neil sings those words and I think about what those words mean to me, and that, ultimately, informs how I’m gonna play drums on that song.”

“I think I probably second guess myself into doing that,” says Neil of his lyrical style. “I would rather not be able to answer all the questions, just to keep it interesting for myself. Sometimes a rhyme sounds awesome and I don’t know what it means, but I’ll go with it anyway. It’s become more difficult to write lyrics now that I have Wikipedia at my fingertips, because you can go down rabbit hole after rabbit hole and not get anything done! Not too long ago you’d have to spend months in a public library trying to find out the things you can find in a couple of keystrokes.”

Elsewhere, however, you’ll find a more straightforward approach to lyrics, A Good Fire relating the memory of hearing Black Sabbath for the first time – something that everyone can relate to – while Sonic Counselor pays homage to Clutch fans. Indeed, it’s fair to say that Clutch fans – collectively known as Gearheads – are a breed like no other.

“I’ve always loved rock songs that just celebrated rock ‘n’ roll,” grins Fallon, “but that song was a bit more about the people who come to our shows, that make it as exciting for us as hopefully it is for them. My favorite shows that I’ve seen bands do is like going to church, especially when everybody’s in sync with each other and you walk out with your jaw on the floor. I feel incredibly grateful that people have walked out of our shows and felt the same way. It’s a tip of the hat to them.”

“We’re exceptionally lucky to have the fans we have,” Jean-Paul agrees. “They’re diehard, and because of that, we take this that much more seriously. We do not take this for granted. We know that those folks could be anywhere else, and they’ve chosen to spend the evening at a Clutch show, so we’re gonna do the best we can to provide them with the best musical experience we can. I think that translates to the records, because at the end of the day, all you have is your records. When this whole thing wraps up, those are gonna be the things that go down in history.”

Music unifies us when we need unification the most. It gives people a reason to put differences aside and come together.

In 1994, Sevendust first forged a familial tie amongst each other that translated into one of the most diehard audiences in the game. To this day, the connection between fans and the GRAMMY® Award-nominated, gold-certified hard rock outfit only grows stronger. For their twelfth full-length and first release for Rise Records, All I See Is War, the quintet—Lajon Witherspoon [lead vocals], Clint Lowery [lead guitar, backing vocals], John Connolly [rhythm guitar, backing vocals], Vince Hornsby [bass], and Morgan Rose [drums]—did the best thing they could possibly do to combat all of the division in the streets and on social media.

As Connolly puts it, they simply “made a Sevendust record.”

“We’re as polarized as we’ve ever been,” he continues. “Discussion is not happening. Everyone is so quick to snap online. We’re not listening. We’re just talking. In these songs, we don’t sugarcoat what’s going on. For as dark as the subject matter may be, it’s about hope. We know we can be in a better spot, because we’ve seen so many different individuals come together around music.”

“We take pride in the connection we have,” adds Lowery. “We’ve always been a people’s band. We’re typical guys who just happen to make a career on stage. With this relationship to the fans, we realize how much we need each other, so we push ourselves to deliver. We don’t stop. We keep moving.”

That’s exactly what these five musicians do every time they get in the studio or on stage. A trifecta of now-classic gold albums—Sevendust [1997], Home [1999], and Animosity[2001]— ignited their journey. Known as an equally intense and unforgettable live force, they’ve consistently packed houses around the world and decimated stages everywhere from Rock on the Range and Woodstock to OZZfest and Shiprocked! 2015’s Kill The Flawrepresented a high watermark. Bowing at #13 on the Billboard Top 200, it scored their highest debut on the respective chart since 2010 and marked their fifth consecutive Top 10 on the Top Rock Albums Chart and third straight Top 3 on the Hard Rock Albums Chart. Most impressively, the lead single “Thank You” garnered a nomination in the category of “Best Metal Performance” at the 2016 GRAMMY® Awards, a career first.

At the top of 2017, the boys discussed what would become their next offering. Instead of diving right in, they took advantage of an eight-month writing process, which proved to be a breath of fresh air.

“Without a doubt, it might’ve been the longest writing process we’ve had for any project other than the first one,” affirms Connolly. “We didn’t need to hop in the studio and punch out a record in a month. We wanted to bring our A-game.”

After sessions in their native Atlanta and at Lowery’s spot in St. Louis, the group headed down to Orlando in order to record at Studio Barbarosa with Michael “Elvis” Baskette [Alter Bridge, Trivium, Slash]. Over the years, they maintained a friendship with the producer amplified by the praises of longtime comrades Alter Bridge and Connolly whose Projected utilized his mixing talents on their debut.

However, this would be Sevendust’s first time working with him.

“The energy was great,” smiles Witherspoon. “At one point, I did seven songs in four days. He really challenged me as a vocalist. We all just gelled. We’ve always talked about doing something for years and years. It was a long time coming. From the first moment we walked into his house, you could feel it. There hadn’t been another band who lived there before. We capitalized on the meeting of the minds. It was a brotherhood.”

“We haven’t had a producer since Cold Day Memory,” Clint goes on. “Elvis was so hands-on. He made us try new transitions and step up our game. Sonically, he opened up a lot of doors that I don’t think we would’ve gone through if he hadn’t been there. We preserved the essence of what we are, but we took chances. Lyrically, we captured what we’ve gone through, all of the rough times, and the changes.”

They introduce All See Is War with the opener and first single “Dirty.” Pummeling drums and driving distortion underscore a soulful proclamation from Witherspoon as he croons, “I’m no stranger to this thing called war.” The guitars crescendo into an expansive refrain that immediately imprints itself before a hummable solo.

“I freestyled that first line,” recalls Witherspoon. “It’s something I haven’t done since ‘Angel’s Son.’ I think it set the tone for the whole thing. It was pretty magic.”

“Someone wants to see you fail, and it really aggravates this person that you’re persevering and surviving anyway,” explains Lowery. “The lyric ‘I’m gonna die whole’means not being extinguished, getting through, and pissing off your enemies.”

The neck-snapping guttural groove of “Meidcated” gives way to another unshakable chant.

“The subject matter is a bit different,” states Connolly. “Porcupine Tree’s Fear of a Blank Planet is arguably one of my favorite records. The idea is similar to ‘Andromeda.’ These pharmaceutical companies have made it so everyone is hooked on something. You don’t even know why you’re on these medications. All of last year’s horrific suicides were linked to a pill. Think about the opioid crisis. It asks, ‘Can we just stop?’

Slyly nodding to Lowery’s love for Stranger Things, “Not Original” thrives on airy, cinematic guitars that unfurl into one of Witherspoon’s bluesiest and boldest performances.

“We wanted to get into some new territory,” elaborates Lowery. “It’s about being in a dry spell and not able to find creativity. You don’t want to repeat yourself. I thought I’d go for this new wave thing, because I was watching a lot of Stranger Things.”

Nailing the “old school vibe,” “Risen” drops a hard-hitting and hypnotic hook that’s primed to set festivals ablaze. “You’re down and out looking for hope,” explains Connolly. “You ask the question, ‘Are you going to kick me while I’m still down, or are you going to help me stand up and get through this?’

In the end, that’s what the music of Sevendust does. It empowers listeners, lifts them up, and lets them know they’re part of the family.

“This band means family to me,” Witherspoon leaves off. “I wake up and can’t believe this is what I do for a living. I still feel like that 20-year-old kid who signed a record deal a zillion years ago. Sevendust is also home. Even though we’ve been doing this forever, it feels like the beginning.

“This what we are,” concludes Connolly. “It’s just another new version of Sevendust.”

Texas Guitarist, Singer, And Blues-rocker Tyler Bryant Started Playing Guitar At The Age Of Six, And By 11 He Was Good Enough To Jam With Adult Players, And It Was Clear What His Future Avocation Would Be. He Moved To Nashville During His Senior Year Of High School (He Finished His Classes And Coursework Online And Graduated After The Move), And He Has Really Never Looked Back, Developing Into An Explosive And Talented Blues And Hard Rock Guitarist, Even Playing Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival At The Age Of 15.

 

Along The Way Bryant Assembled A Powerhouse Band, The Shakedown, Comprised Of Caleb Crosby On Drums, Noah Denney On Bass, And Graham Whitford, The Son Of Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford, On Second Guitar. Quickly Earning A Buzz On The Blues And Rock Touring Circuit, The Band Opened Shows For The Likes Of Aerosmith, B.B. King, And Clapton, Among Others, And Released An Ep, My Radio, In The Spring Of 2011, Following It With A Seven-track Album, From The Sandcastle, In The Fall. A 12-track Full-length, Wild Child, Recorded In Analog With Engineer Vance Powell, Appeared Early In 2013. The Success Of Wild Child Helped To Land The Group A Deal With John Varvatos/Republic Records, Who Would Would Put Out Their 2015 Ep, The Wayside.

 

The Following Year, They Supported Guns N’ Roses On Tour. In 2017, They Returned With The Eponymous Full-length Tyler Bryant And The Shakedown, Featuring The Single “Heartland.”

 

Venue

Marquee Theatre
730 N Mill Ave
Tempe, 85281 United States
+ Google Map
Phone:
(480) 829-0607
Website:
https://www.luckymanonline.com/